Starring: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Directed by: Eric Brevig (debut)
Written by: Michael D. Weiss (“The Butterfly Effect 2”), Jennifer Flackett (“Nim’s Island”), Mark Levin (“Wimbledon”)

It’s usually hard to sell a movie with 3-D special effects without thinking it’ll be nothing more than gimmicky concepts and designs. You can hardly be blamed for the pre-notion when the visual technique was popularized in the 80s and attached to a number of second-rate movies.

In “Journey to the Center of the Earth,”  however, the digital technology, which has improved immensely over the last few years, is such a major element of film, the computer-generated risks just happen to work much better than the story itself.

Based on Jules Verne’s book of the same name, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” screenwriters of this newest film version decide not to actually adapt the book like the 1959 movie, but rather incorporate it into the story. The actual book is one of the belongings given to geology professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), which belong to his late brother, a scientist in his own right.

Left to take care of his young nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for a few days, Trevor discovers some notes his brother scribbled in the margins of the novel that could possibly lead to a major discovery. The doorway to this scientific breakthrough happens to be in Iceland, the location where Sean’s father disappeared during his last mission.

So, off the duo goes to explore the great unknown with the help of Hannah (Anita Briem), a lively guide who directs them through dangerous passages of the Icelandic volcanoes. Of course, this isn’t your ordinary tour through a few harmless walking trails. The group finds this out when the cave they are trapped in collapses and they begin freefalling to the Earth’s core.

The real 3-D adventure finally begins once they reach their destination and left to fend for themselves against giant piranhas, man-eating plants, and, of course, an ornery Tyrannosaurus Rex hunting for some human grub. (Ignore the yo-yo scenes tossed in at the beginning for no good reason).

The effects are amusing if you have your shades on, but there’s really no reason to see “Journey” if you’re not watching it in 3-D format (2-D versions will also hit theaters). While the story is fast-paced and the effects fun, novice director Eric Brevig (the amazing special effects guru behind “Total Recall”) can’t steer clear of the corny dialogue and one-dimensional (how ironic) characters. While everything is literally jumping out at you from the screen, “Journey” screenwriters actually forgot to include something to return the favor and reel us in.

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